Lumina News file photo
Rob Machado of Cardiff, Calif., took first place in the pro division at the 2011 Reef/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest.
Registration for the Eighth Annual O’Neill/Sweetwater Pro-Am Surf Fest has been extended to allow for beach entries. As the swell forecast from Tropical Storm Chantal builds — there is talk of head-high conditions — so does anticipation.
“All the entries start flying in last minute, but we expect about 250 like we did year before last,” said Brad Beach, event director and co-founder. Between 64 and 96 pros are expected to be among the 250.
“We know Brett Barley’s coming from O’Neill, and Aaron Cormican, who has won one of the past contests,” Beach said.
The contest will take place July 12, 13 and 14 starting at 8 a.m. at Oceanic Street. Beach anticipates it being a positive experience for competitors and non-surfers, giving the town of Wrightsville Beach reason to boast all that it has to offer.
“I just think that whole synergy of what you might call ‘Main Street Wrightsville,’ with Tower 7 and Vito’s Pizza and everything is such a cool venue,” he said.
The contest will have seven divisions: guppies (for kids needing assistance), guys 14 and under, guys 15 and over, guys open longboard, girls open, girls open longboard and professional. Entry fees are $10 for guppies, $45 for amateurs and $150 for pros. The pro purse is a sizable $15,000, sure to make for heated competition. Beach shared his thoughts on the two aspects of participation, competing and spectating, and noted the roles sponsors and local businesses play in providing an entertaining, fun product for everyone involved.
“Surfing is an individual sport,” he said. “When you’re in the water you’re up against everyone else, some of whom are your friends. To me, it’s all about having a good time and being a good sport,” he said. “For people coming down [to watch], it’s all about the energy that the event brings to the area. We’re going to have Red Bull with their DJ churning out tunes.”
He explained that there are a number of events planned specifically for the demographic that isn’t necessarily captivated by surfing for six to seven hours at a time. For instance, a photo-scavenger hunt, comparable in concept to the TV show “The Amazing Race,” will be held with prizes to be won.
Yet the surf contest has historically had a tremendous draw that stands to bring waves of good fortune to the town of Wrightsville Beach.
“Some of the local merchants have told me that the weekend is like a holiday weekend that rivals Fourth of July weekend,” Beach said.